In less than 24 hours, we will know whether ACTA was defeated in the European Parliament, or whether we’re not sure yet whether it’s been defeated. Yes, that’s one of the oddities of the situation: not a single Member of European Parliament is asking for ACTA to actually be ratified. Here’s what the chessboard looks like in the last 24 hours before showdown.
The final debate of ACTA is happening now in the European Parliament. The positions have been locked for some time; nothing is expected to change today. The five committees who have recommended a rejection basically take turns condemning it as a piece of shit from all kinds of angles.
Tomorrow Wednesday, in the voting block between 12 noon and 14:00, the European Parliament will vote on ACTA. There are two options – reject it now, or postpone the vote until a later time. Yes, you read that right.
It is quite telling of the level of success by the citizens that not one single Member of European Parliament submits a motion for ACTA to actually be ratified at this time. There are only two options on the table: reject ACTA or postpone the vote until after the European Court of Justice has given its opinion on whether ACTA is legal or not.
This is a stalling tactic. It’s easy to point at two-facedness here: the ACTA opponents fought for years to have ACTA tried in the European Court of Justice, and the proponents said at that time that it wasn’t necessary. Now that the public opinion has turned against ACTA, these opinions have traded places: it’s now the opponents who want to kill it with fire in Parliament by getting to the final vote, whereas the proponents of ACTA are trying to stall by waiting for the outcome of the European Court of Justice.
In other words, the losing side is trying to buy time to get the public opinion, but the sides have traded places in the past six months. Typical political play, really. But there’s more to it.
ACTA is a legal and a political decision. If ACTA is declared legal, there’s still a political decision to be made whether the treaty is desirable or not. If the treaty isn’t considered politically desirable, it doesn’t matter whether it’s legal or not – it has to pass both tests to be ratified.
Thus, it is easy to see why the ACTA opponents tried to get ACTA tried for legality before it was passed politically. But there is no such logic in the proponents testing for legality before it is rejected. If it is politically rejected, it doesn’t matter if the court said it was legal or illegal; that only matters if ACTA is to be ratified.
Thus, it is clearer than ever that the EPP and ECR party groups – Christian Democrats and conservatives, mostly – who are fighting for ACTA are just stalling for time, in hope that lobbying efforts can penetrate to turn the opposition enough. (The Polish MEPs in EPP/ECR are notable exceptions, who vote against ACTA.) The point man of this effort to stall is the Swedish Christofer Fjellner of the EPP.
The EPP is aided in this by the European Commission, which is the European Union’s executive branch. The responsible commissioner for ACTA, Karel de Gucht, has put tons of effort into making the Europarl vote his way. This has made large parts of Parliament furious over the commissioner’s disrespect for Parliament and democracy alike.
In 24 hours, we will know if MEP Fjellner or the citizens of the world won this battle – if we get locked down in chains of monopolies, or if we can celebrate having rejected corporate rule yet once more. The margins look like they’re on the side of ACTA rejection, but it’s impossible to be sure in this high-intensity political battle. Do mail the MEPs if you haven’t already.
See also Glyn Moody – Defeating ACTA: Now or Never.